A military jet taking part in a British airshow has crashed into a busy main road, killing seven people and injuring 15 others.

The Hawker Hunter fighter jet, which was participating in the Shoreham Airshow near Brighton in southern England, hit several vehicles on a nearby road as it crashed on Saturday afternoon.

Witnesses told local TV that the jet appeared to have crashed after it failed to pull out of a loop manoeuvre.

They said a fireball erupted near trees and huge plumes of thick black smoke rose after the crash. 

West Sussex Police told the AP news agency that seven people died at the scene and one patient with life-threatening injuries was taken to hospital. Another 14 people were treated for minor injuries.

The jet crashed into several cars on a nearby road exploding in a huge fireball [EPA]

The plane crashed just 400m from families who were watching the airshow, a local radio station reported. 

The police said all of the casualties were believed to have occurred on the road, and no one on the airfield was believed to be injured.

The country's Air Accident Investigation Bureau attended the scene, as the road was closed in both directions. 

Crashes at British airshows are rare, but in 2007 the pilot of a World War II Hurricane died at the Shoreham Airshow after performing a barrel-roll.

Source: Agencies